FRESH OFF THE BOAT. Ken Jeong (left) guest starred in the
season finale of "Fresh Off the Boat" with (from left) Lucille
Soong, Forrest Wheeler, Ian Chen, Hudson Yang, Randall Park, and
Constance Wu. "Fresh Off the Boat" is the first network
primetime comedy about an Asian-American family since Margaret
Choís "All-American Girl" in 1994. Jeong, the star of "Dr. Ken,"
gladly acknowledges that the success of "Fresh Off the Boat"
paved the way for his series. (Michael Ansell/ABC)
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #11 (June 6, 2016), page
"Fresh Off the Boat" team reflects on
By Lynn Elber
AP Television Writer
LOS ANGELES ó Television is mostly entertaining, sometimes
enlightening, and, occasionally, can make a difference.
The sitcom "Fresh Off the Boat" hits all the marks. Because
of it, along with ABC siblings "black-ish" and "Dr. Ken" (and,
at CW, "Jane the Virgin"), network televisionís American family
photo album is starting to look authentic.
The contribution of "Fresh Off the Boat" is especially
notable. Itís the first network prime-time comedy about an
Asian-American family since Margaret Choís "All-American Girl"
in 1994, which lasted a season. "Dr. Ken" star Ken Jeong
("Community," The Hangover) gladly acknowledges that the
success of "Fresh Off the Boat" paved the way for his series.
"Even if I wasnít a part of any of it, never in a million
years would I have thought any of this would happen," said
Jeong, who guest starred in the season finale of "Fresh Off the
Boat." "It really is beyond satisfying" to see two shows on the
air and with characters of different Asian origins, he said.
"Fresh Off the Boat" follows a Taiwanese-American familyís
mostly eager plunge into the melting pot of the 1990s. On the
flip side, "black-ish" is about a contemporary African-American
familyís efforts to hold on to its cultural identity. "Dr. Ken,"
about a Korean-American husband and father, gives the formulaic
domestic sitcom a cheerful ethnic tweak.
Without losing sight of their primary job, to be funny, the
ABC shows make the case that there is ó cynics and malcontents
aside ó a suburban-lawn-sized patch of common ground to be
found. The showsí ratings are proof that viewers are responding,
with both "Fresh Off the Boat" and "black-ish" secure on ABCís
schedule and "Dr. Ken" returning for its second year.
As "Fresh Off the Boat" wrapped taping for the season, stars
Randall Park and Constance Wu, who star as parents Louis and
Jessica Huang, took a set break to reflect on its impact.
Executive producer Nahnatchka Khan and Chelsey Crisp, who plays
neighbor Honey, weighed in later by phone.
The writer-producer marvels at televisionís sudden burst of
inclusiveness, including Aziz Ansari in "Master of None" and
Priyanka Chopra in "Quantico."
"The difference in the past year has been enormous. The fact
we were right in the middle of this kind of change is
incredible, and weíre really grateful for it," Khan said. "The
more, the merrier. Letís just keep going."
"I get stopped on the street all the time, with people
telling me how much the show means to them and that they watch
it with their families," he said. And itís not just Asian
Americans, but "everyone," Park said.
"Itís easy for us to buy into the myths out there that people
donít want to watch a family thatís different from them on TV,
that itís going to be too foreign for people," he said.
"Fresh Off the Boat" is disproving that. But Park recalled
his own early concerns about how his character would be
"Even though in the grand scheme of sitcom history thereís a
tradition of the goofy dad, to me it was a point of concern
because there werenít a lot of Asian sitcom dads to balance that
out, or even Asian characters in general," he said. "He is a
character, for sure, but the writers have done such a great job
of humanizing him. ... For all the silliness to this character,
thereís a loving side, a serious side."
Louis has shown "what a father could be, an immigrant could
be ó or just a man could be," Park said.
Wu also felt the weight of high expectations for the series.
"Some people wanted it to tackle race issues, and thereís
some people who think the more progressive thing is to not look
at race issues and just have them (the family) tackle normal
issues such as puberty or cooking," she said.
But the writers have managed to do both.
"There were episodes about raceless things and ones that
really did focus on the uniqueness of our story and navigating
through an Asian-American lens," Wu said. "You canít please
everyone, but the writers have been smart to go on both sides of
Viewers have told her, through a flurry of tweets and
Facebook and Instagram posts, that itís "inspirational to have
Asian-American characters, and rather than trying to hide their
culture they celebrate it and take ownership of the story," she
Playing Honey, the supporting white character in a series
dominated by Asian Americans, is a role that Crisp welcomes.
"It feels pretty remarkable that we finally got there, and it
feels really special to be a part of the show that did it," she
It also evoked a memory of why television diversity matters.
"My best friend is Korean American, and when we were growing
up there was no one that looked like him on TV. When I first
read the pilot, reading the familyís experience of going to
Orlando and being the only Asian-American family, it reminded me
so much of my childhood friend, Richard," Crisp said.
Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The